The Spectacular Deer Rut at Bushy Park in Hampton, London: The dawn chorus, Bushy Park style...

The Spectacular Deer Rut at Bushy Park in Hampton, London is a sight to behold so last Saturday Hoover and I thought we’d head towards The Big Smoke for a change to visit the Royal Park and see the spectacle for ourselves.  London is an area we’d usually avoid as for us it conjures up images of congestion and traffic jams so we set off reasonably early and flew up the M3 towards Hampton Court to the park. (map)

Bushy Park is situated in the London Borough of Richmond Upon Thames, just across the road from Hampton Court Palace, and at approximately 1,100 acres it is the second largest of London’s Royal Parks.  Most of it is open to the public, and parking is free.   In September 2014 most of it was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

As we entered the park on Chestnut Avenue we were greeted by The Diana Fountain (streetview), which is a 2.38m high bronze statue of the goddess standing atop a marble and stone fountain, surrounded by bronzes of four boys, four water nymphs and four shells.  The fountain sits in the centre of a huge circular basin at the junction of Chestnut and Lime Avenues.  We followed the road around the basin and headed off to the right where we could see the car park was located.

We parked up among other dog walkers, runners, photographers, fishermen, and all sorts of other people who wanted to enjoy the park.  It was already busy at 8:45 in the morning, but I discovered later that this was due to the popularity of the weekly Park Run, which starts at 9 o’clock.  Apparently up to 1,600 people regularly participate and we saw men, women and children (and a few dogs!) of all ages and abilities (including toddlers in pushchairs) joining in.  Rather than making the park feel busy it just added to the ‘weekend’ atmosphere: there is so much space here that the runners are easily avoided if you wish, but we really enjoying watching them for a little while.  It was like a mini London Marathon.A young doe keeps her eye on us...

As I locked the car I heard a loud bellowing sound, so I turned and was greeted by the sight of a stag (or a buck…I’m not certain of the correct term but I’m sure you get the picture)  ‘giving it what for’ just ten or so metres away.  It certainly was rutting season and he was enthusiastically advertising the fact to anyone who’d care to listen!  He didn’t bat an eyelid at all the activity in and around the car park…in fact he seemed to be enjoying the attention as he just carried on with his ‘shouting’.  I frantically took photos in case he moved on, but I soon realized that there were young stags everywhere shouting and hollering.  It was wonderful!  I’d always known that the Royal Parks had deer but for some reason that morning it hadn’t occurred to me that I might see quite so many and at such close proximately!

After a few minutes we moved on and discovered the beautiful Heron Pond, which is connected to the equally beautiful Leg of Mutton Pond by a narrow waterway.  There were waterfowl of all shapes and sizes going about their business, whilst fisherman quietly looked on, dogs sniffed invisible ‘sniffs’, and cyclists and walkers passed by.  All of this going on to the soundtrack of stags bellowing as they wandered through the head-high bracken with just their antlers and their voices giving their presence away….marvellous!

The park itself is really rather glorious: a huge chunk of countryside set in London.  There are vast expanses of long grass, peppered with majestic Oak tree, areas of open water that reflect the skies, and pockets of trees that create glades and woodlands here and there.  If you are worried about your dog meeting the deer there is enough room to avoid them if you feel it is better to do so.  There Hoover takes in Heron Pondis good advice on The Royal Parks website about how to behave with your dog around the deer, particularly in the birthing and rutting seasons.  (website)  It is worth exploring both sides of Chestnut Avenue – in fact the other side tends to be a little quieter and there is a pretty stream that runs through this half – ideal for doggy paddle as there were less waterfowl. There are generally less beasties to chase on this side, although some of the deer do venture across the road.

There is a cafe at Bushy Park called The Pheasantry, but dogs are not permitted inside.  All is not lost however as there is a super-smart coffee wagon at the car park, which sells all sorts of goodies as well as cafe lattes etc.

The Royal Parks website has loads of additional information about the park, including gate opening and closing times etc.  (website)

We had an absolutely brilliant morning at Bushy Park…there was so much to see…it’s well worth a visit with your four-legged friend…